Worshipping gods is futile and is nothing more than an ancient primitive custom practiced by weak minded and superstitious people. It has no place in the 21st century. The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world, not to spend our entire lives studying an old book, looking up to the sky and worshipping an invisible ruler in another realm.
How would you go about responding to a friend who had this view? How would you challenge this challenge? Tell us what you think in the comments, and then we’ll hear from Alan on Thursday.
Okay, I can’t resist this. Remember Horus Ruins Christmas? Well, he’s back with a devastating argument against Christianity he learned on the internet.
The response to Horus in the video takes a somewhat different approach from what we generally talk about here. For example, while we would say that the moral law still applies in that it accomplishes the things mentioned in the video for Christians today (and I would add that it also reveals God’s nature to us), we wouldn’t say that it applies in virtue of it being part of the Mosaic Law (though perhaps Lutheran Satire wouldn’t either). But you’ll definitely find it interesting, not to mention entertaining. It explains well (or as well as it can in such a brief format) why Christians no longer are under a covenant that includes any of the ceremonial aspects of the law that were contained in the Mosaic Covenant. You can read what Greg has said about this issue here.
In the last couple of weeks, Alan has talked here and here about the Reformation Project conference he attended—a project that aims to convince the church that homosexual acts have not been prohibited by God. (You can hear more about the project, along with a response to some of its arguments, here.)
Alan noted that their work stands or falls mainly on the idea that the type of homosexuality forbidden in the Bible is not the kind of relationship they’re promoting today. In “Not That Kind of Homosexuality?” Kevin DeYoung summarizes this popular argument like this:
There were many bad examples of homosexual behavior in the ancient world.
For example, here are ancient sources describing pederasty, master-slave encounters, and wild promiscuity.
Therefore, when the Bible condemns same-sex intimacy, it had these bad examples in mind.
DeYoung explains two reasons why this argument fails:
For starters, the cultural distance argument is an argument from silence. The Bible nowhere limits its rejection of homosexuality to exploitative or pederastic (man-boy) forms of same-sex intimacy. Leviticus forbids a male lying with a male as with a woman (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). The text says nothing about temple prostitution, effeminate men, or sexual domination. The prohibition is against men doing with men what ought to be done with women. Similarly, the same-sex sin condemned in Romans 1 is not simply out-of-control passion or the insatiable male libido that desires men in addition to women. According to Paul, the fundamental problem with homosexual behavior is that men and women exchange sexual intercourse with the opposite sex for unnatural relations with persons of the same sex (Rom. 1:26-27; cf. 22, 25). If the biblical authors meant to frown upon only certain kinds of homosexual arrangements, they wouldn’t have condemned the same-sex act itself in such absolute terms….
The second reason the distance argument fails is because it is an argument against the evidence. The line of reasoning traced above would be more compelling if it could be demonstrated that the only kinds of homosexuality known in the ancient world were based on pederasty, victimization, and exploitation. On the face of it, it’s strange that progressive voices would want us to reach this conclusion. For it would mean that committed, consensual, lifelong partnerships were completely unknown and untried in the ancient world. It seems demeaning to suggest that until very recently in the history of the world there were no examples of warm, loving, committed homosexual relationships. This is probably why Matthew Vines in using the cultural distance argument to make a biblical case for same-sex relationships admits, “This isn’t to say no one [in the Greco-Roman world] pursued only same-sex relationships, or that no same-sex unions were marked by long-term commitment and love.” But of course, once we recognize that the type of same-sex unions progressives want to bless today were in fact present in the ancient world, it’s only special pleading which makes us think the biblical prohibitions couldn’t be talking about those kinds of relationships.
My heart goes out to the people involved in the Reformation Project. I know the sting of loneliness and the desire for intimacy with another person. I know the temptation to step around God’s word in order to pursue this desire. A desire for oneness with a spouse is a powerful, good desire when it’s fulfilled the way God designed it to be fulfilled. And it’s destructive when we place it above God, closing our eyes to what He’s said in order to protect the particular relationship we desperately want. It’s destructive, most of all, to the one thing we ought to guard above all else: our relationship with, love for, submission to, and trust in Christ.
The people of the Reformation Project are engaging in their work as professed Christians, so there is one question they need to be asked—one question they need to carefully consider: If it were true that God actually did prohibit homosexual acts, and you came to know this to be true for sure, would you leave the practice of homosexuality, or would you leave Christ and Christianity? They need to settle the answer to this hypothetical question apart from the question of what the Bible says, before they determine what the Bible says, for the answer to this question goes much deeper than any answer that’s merely about homosexuality. What are you really willing to give up for Christ? How much do you really love Him? More than your boyfriend? Your girlfriend? Your desire for a family? Is He greater than even these things? Is He your Lord? Do you trust that He commands the right commands? Do you trust that He will care for and sustain you when you suffer loss for His sake?
This question isn’t just for the Reformation Project, it’s for you and me, and it’s not an easy one. It never has been an easy one, and many have “gone away grieving” from Jesus, who said:
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
You don’t have to be gay to feel the weight of that. If, when you read it, you don’t cry out like the man in Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help my unbelief,” you don’t yet understand your own need for grace. But you can rest in this: Jesus has grace enough. He called you to Himself while you were still His enemy. How much more will He give you grace to follow Him now! He knew your sin and lack of love for Him then, and He knows it now, so there’s no need to hide from Him or from the truth. His grace has covered your past failure, and as you move forward with Him now, His grace will give you life in your loss.
When, gay or straight, you’re prepared to give up what Jesus asks you to give up, whatever it turns out to be, then you’re ready to go to the Bible and find what He wills there.
Hannah More, born in the 18th century, became an author, social activist, and philanthropist because of her brilliant mind and Christian convictions.
Her fiancé broke off their long engagement at a time when a breach of that sort of promise by a man was taken very seriously. He settled an annual annuity on her, and this gave her the freedom to pursue her interests in a way many women could not. She moved to London, wrote popular books, and moved in elite literary circles before she became a follower of Jesus.
Hannah realized that Christianity was not about performance, but “a turning of the whole mind to God.” This influenced how she spent her time, energy, and talents the rest of her life.
Hannah and her sister pursued many of their activities together. The two were as well read as university professors. They read from a wide variety of literature, including Puritans' writings and secular philosophers of the time. Hannah read John Newton’s autobiography and attended his church. He advised her, “You have great gifts; now believe in the giver of the gifts and do the work of that righteous judge in the public sphere.” Newton and her friend William Wilberforce encouraged her to retain her relationships in the fashionable world so she could have influence on the rich and powerful.
She was part of the religious Clapham community, which included many leaders in the abolition movement. They influenced her commitment to evangelism and helping the needy with their philosophy that “The Church is the only institution that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”
Her writing made her very influential in British culture. She wrote books and tracts on improving social manners and therefore quality of life that became bestsellers. Hannah wrote a response to Thomas Paine’s book The Rights of Man. His book encouraged social change through revolution, and it became popular in England. More wrote equally popular responses to Paine’s argument showing the practical realities that helped readers see the dangerous consequences. She recommended a peaceful way of making important and necessary social changes. Marc Baer, in his book Mere Believers, says that “it can be argued that no one played a more important role in preventing revolution in late eighteenth– and early nineteenth-century Britain than did Hannah More.” More also wrote attacking the French atheist politician whose rhetoric drove Catholic priests into exile to escape violence. And More used the profits of her pamphlet to provide for these exiles.
Hannah and her sister opened a school for the poor at a time when there was no public education and the majority of British citizens were illiterate. The classes met on Sunday, the only day the working people had off. Children were taught to read and write, using the Bible as one of the textbooks. They were taught skills that would help improve their circumstances. Adults were also taught, and job placement services were offered. Within a decade, the sisters opened 16 schools. Hannah continued her direct involvement in the schools for 30 years until she was old and too ill to continue. Three of her schools survived into the 20th century and were models for continuing education.
Hannah encouraged women, and specifically poor women, to get an education to improve their position and wellbeing. She believed that an educated wife was a more suitable companion than a merely ornamental woman. She thought that women could be significant influencers in improving society by getting an education and making wise and moral life choices. British men’s clubs are well known. More endowed clubs for women. Through these clubs, women were encouraged to become self-reliant, taught financial management, and provided services for difficult circumstances.
More was the first woman involved in the organized abolitionist movement. She wrote pamphlets and poetry to advance the abolitionist movement. She helped sponsor the publication of Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography, the account of a former slave. She helped promote the boycott of slave-grown sugar. She believed strongly that God had created all people equally valuable.
Hannah More led an extraordinary life. She had tremendous influence on society and used it to make positive reforms. She was motivated and guided by her Christian convictions.
If homosexuals are bullied, we need to protect them. If they’re unjustly discriminated against, we need to help them. If they’re treated with contempt, the person hurting them should be stopped. If a family member comes out as gay and then is belittled, harmed, or vilified, then the offending family needs to be corrected. If Christians ridicule people who identify as gay or lesbian, they need to admonished. If a church doesn’t welcome seekers of all stripes (including people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual), then it needs to change.
But none of these circumstances are reasons to reinterpret Scripture to affirm homosexuality. Nor do they justify Christians making an attitudinal shift to endorse homosexual sex, homosexual unions, or same-sex marriage.
That’s why I’m mystified by the recent trend of some believers to adopt pro-gay theology.
Earlier this month, I attended the national conference of The Reformation Project in Washington D.C. Its founder, Matthew Vines, calls himself a gay Christian and is dedicating his efforts to changing the perspective of the Church to gay affirming. He and his allies don’t consider this a minor project. They use the term “reformation” because they see this mission in line with the noble reform efforts of Martin Luther. They intend the Church’s transformation to be just as significant as it was post-Luther.
But why reinterpret the biblical text? According to one evangelical ethicist, it’s because LGBT Christians have been mistreated by the Church. David Gushee, who spoke at the conference I attended, explains his rationale in a Washington Postarticle. He explains that gay and lesbian people have “received contempt and discrimination for centuries” and that biblical sexual ethics have led to an attitude that is “bristling with bullying and violence.”
Even if he’s entirely accurate, what’s the appropriate action? The Christians who have bullied, treated with contempt, and unjustly discriminated against homosexuals should be punished and corrected. It’s very simple. What should be done, then, with the biblical passages that teach homosexual behavior is wrong? Nothing. The problem is with human action, not divine revelation.
The same is true with any moral command in Scripture. Suppose the biblical sexual ethic against adultery led some Christians to assault adulterers. The correct course of action would be to bring the criminals to justice, not reinterpret the biblical prohibition against infidelity.
But Gushee’s solution throws out the baby with the bathwater. He says “we need to reconsider the entire body of biblical interpretation and tradition related to this issue.” Really? Some Christians (and lots of non-Christians) engage in “unchristlike” behavior, and that requires we reinterpret the moral demands of Scripture?
Why would Gushee call for such a drastic reversal on thousands of years of biblical interpretation? For someone who is described (by the inside flap of his book) as “America’s leading evangelical ethics scholar,” shouldn’t he exhibit clearer thinking? Can’t he distinguish between the moral commands of Scripture and the mistaken behavior of some Christians?
It’s possible something else is motivating him. His article explains his change of heart was from his “growing contact with LGBT people…The fact that one of these LGBT Christians is my dear youngest sister, Katey, has made this issue even more deeply personal for me.”
That didn’t surprise me at all. It’s not uncommon to accept pro-gay theology if a family member or close friend is gay. That’s not only true of Gushee, but also of James Brownson – The Reformation Project’s other scholar – who said his son was gay.
You might think I’m committing a genetic fallacy – the mistake of disqualifying a person’s position because of the origin of their belief (e.g. sympathy for a gay relative). As C.S. Lewis once said, “You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.”
I’m not saying, though, that Gushee, Brownson, and others are mistaken because of their family allegiance. They’re mistaken because their reinterpretation of Scripture is wrong. Period. (It’s not my point to make that case here, although I've argued this in my book). Knowing that, it’s now fair to explain why they’re wrong. Close relationships with homosexual friends or family can motivate one to accept a gay-affirming view of Scripture. I feel the same temptation regarding my gay family and friends.
But you don’t have to abandon Scripture’s moral position in order to maintain a loving relationship with someone who identifies as gay. Many Christians are able to stand for biblical truth while being compassionate. Their relationships with gays are characterized by the same qualities as their relationships with other friends and family. Yet, they still hold to the God-given moral parameters in Scripture. No compromise needed.
I’m sad all believers can’t see this solution. Instead, they abandon the authority of Scripture because the LGBT community has been wronged by hurtful people or someone they know self-identifies as gay. Neither of these reasons is sufficient for adopting pro-gay theology. Both reasons do warrant, however, a change in attitude and behavior on the part of people who do wrong. In other words, people should change, not the Word of God. That’s doable since God has always been in the business of changing lives.
I can’t help but be reminded of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1-5) to stand firm in the truth:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
This is precisely what the Church is facing now. People are looking to justify their desires, whether for homosexual behavior or to affirm those who practice it.
Paul’s charge, however, is intended for those of us who will stand firm. We are to preach the Word of God and be ready to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
This is the sober reality we face. Will we turn away from the truth? Or will we fulfill our ministry? Remember, God will judge us.